The Baseball-Reference Play Index search function is free for the month of April. If you haven’t ever used the Play Index before, you owe it to yourself to check it out now. You can use it to answer all sorts of player and team-specific research question. Today, let’s look at the Mets’ opponents and see who are the best ones in history against our favorite team. We’ll use a minimum of 500 PA against the Mets to be included on these lists.
There are 118 different players who’ve reached our playing time threshold, from Hank Aaron to Ryan Zimmerman. At least 14 of these 118 players also suited up for the Mets at one point or another, ranging from Bobby Abreu to Todd Zeile. It also includes 26 different Hall of Famers, along with some that have the credentials but who have yet to be enshrined.
If you’re a greybeard and asked to name a guy that always killed the Mets, you might answer Willie Stargell. If you’re on the wrong side of 30 but not yet eligible for an AARP card, you might say Chipper Jones. If you just started following the game in the last 10 years, you might reply Freddie Freeman. Those are all strong choices. But let’s move it from opinion and reputation to actual leaders in specific categories.
It should come as no surprise that Pete Rose is the all-time leader against the Mets in Games (335), Games Started (327), PA (1,475), ABs (1312), Runs (207), Hits (396) and Doubles (64). Unlike Aaron and other stars of the 50s, Rose played his entire career while the Mets were in the league. And Rose played forever and batted leadoff a good portion of the time, too. What might be surprising is who’s in second place in six of these seven categories. Lou Brock was another leadoff hitter who played long enough to amass 3,000 hits and he played just part of one season before the Mets joined the league. So, it really shouldn’t be surprising. But it caught me off guard.
Brock flips the script, grabbing the top spot with 18 three-baggers. Rose places tied for third in the category with 12. Who finished second? My assumption is that if you had 10 guesses at the answer, you wouldn’t get it. Take some time to think about it. The answer will be at the bottom.
Stargell laps the field with 60 HR. The top 10 is a good list of the guys who’ve tormented the Mets over the years. Tied for second is Mike Schmidt and Jones, each with 49, albeit in more PA than Stargell accumulated in his career against the Mets. Willie McCovey and Ryan Howard each had 48, Aaron clubbed 45 and Pat Burrell had 42. Willie Mays and Chase Utley each had 39 and Barry Bonds rounds out the top 10 with 38.
Stargell (182), Schmidt (162) and Jones (159) are the top three here, too. Seven of the top 10 from the HR list are on the RBI list, too. Andre Dawson ranks fifth in RBIs despite not having gaudy overall numbers against the Mets. While era considerations need to be taken into account, Dawson had a .247/.287/.415 line against the Mets in 1,123 PA. That’s tied for 95th in OPS among the 118 players on this list. He may not have gotten a ton of hits or walks but he sure made the ones he got count.
Brock comes out on top here, too, with 97 steals. With 561 fewer PA than Brock, Tim Raines is second on the list with 77 steals. Maury Wills is sixth on the list with 54 steals, despite having just nine fewer PA than Raines. These three show the value of getting on base. Raines had a .378 OBP while Wills checked in with .320 mark and Brock just a .304 OBP.
Schmidt finally grabs top honors in a category with 169 lifetime walks against the Mets. Joe Morgan grabs second place with 149 free passes while Bonds rounds out the top three with 148. Bonds leads in intentional walks with 27, edging out Aaron with 26. New Hall of Famer Ted Simmons places third with 23.
Conventional wisdom used to be that you had to be a pretty good hitter to get a bunch of strikeouts, as they wouldn’t keep the stiffs in the lineup if the whiffed that often. And our list here proves that. Schmidt leads the way with 208 strikeouts, followed by Stargell (206) and Howard (205). Among active players the leaders are Zimmerman (162) and Freeman (144) and it wouldn’t be a shock if Freeman, who had 19 whiffs last year against the Mets, became the overall leader once his career winds up.
Another category that probably won’t surprise many, as the all-time leader is Tony Gwynn with a .356 mark. Ron Darling always talks about how good Gwynn did against him and he’s not embellishing things, either. Gwynn had a .441/.452/.593 against Darling. Before Gwynn, the leader was Matty Alou with a 333 AVG and Tony Gonzalez rounded out the top three with a .323 mark.
Five guys have a lifetime .400 OBP against the Mets. Jones (.406), Gwynn (.402) and Gonzalez (.401) are joined by two guys who played for the Mets late in their career. The all-time leader is Gary Sheffield, with a .410 OBP and the other is Abreu, who at .401 is tied with Gonzalez.
Four players last year in the majors who qualified for the batting title had a .600 SLG percentage. But not one of our 118 players reached that plateau lifetime against the Mets. With neither Shea Stadium or Citi Field being good-hitting parks, this isn’t a huge surprise. And the Mets pitching staffs throughout the years have had some good hurlers. There are 12 guys with a lifetime SLG in the .500s, led by McCovey with a .597 mark. Mays (.580) and Stargell (.576) complete the top three.
McCovey again leads the way here, as his .989 OPS gives him the top spot. But Sheffiled’s OBP vaults him into second place with a .973 mark. Mays claims the bronze with a .950 OPS. There are 10 players with a lifetime 900 OPS. Jones and Stargell round out the top five. Dick Allen is next with a .939 mark, followed by Aaron, Freeman, Bonds and Utley.
Freeman leads the way right now with a .368 mark, although it will be tough for him to maintain the top slot, as Gwynn has a .365 in the category. Roberto Clemente had the hits drop in at a nice clip, too, with a .359 mark.
It would be a very difficult task to figure out OPS+ on a team-specific level. But what we have in its place – tOPS+ — allows us to compare how players did in OPS against the Mets compared to how they did in OPS versus the league as a whole. Mays hit great against the Mets but he hit great against everyone. In fact, he hit just as well against the Mets as he did the rest of the league – he has a 100 score in this metric.
Denis Menke was a super sub, playing six of the eight non-pitcher positions, missing just catcher and center field. He had a 13-year career in the majors and finished with a nice 103 OPS+ in his career, which saw several seasons in the Astrodome. That resulted in a .713 OPS lifetime mark. But, against the Mets, Menke had an .833 OPS, which translated to a 133 tOPS+. Stargell had a 111 mark, Freeman a 105 and Jones a 104. The Hall of Famer who raised his game the most against the Mets? That would be Gary Carter, with a 126 score.
And this is a category where the trailers are pretty interesting. Bonds had a .908 OPS against the Mets, which for most players would be a terrific number. But lifetime, Bonds had a 1.051 OPS, so he did worse against the Mets than the rest of the league. His tOPS+ is just 73. Next on this bottom list is Dawson, with a 75. Brock and Richie Hebner had a 76 score. If we knew this then, maybe the Mets wouldn’t have traded for him.
The guy with the second-most triples against the Mets is Larry Bowa with 14. Bowa finished with 99 lifetime triples but sadly none in his 14-game stint with the 1985 Mets.